This is a wonderful essay. Fabulous find.
Very positive aspects:
I agree with Slugger. This was my first experience with spending significant time in SL and interacting with others around an intellectual interest. I definitely had the sense that I was in a real place at a real conference with real people. I only knew one person from RL (Alan Levine), but while at the conference I saw him as CDB–almost a separate entity. I really wanted to know more about who the other attendees were and how they got there. Very interesting presenters. I’m looking them up on google to learn more about their work.
More problematic reactions (my own):
I found that my “shy person” persona came out just as much as it would have at RL conferences where I don’t know anyone. When I’m at conferences with my usual constituency, I’m much more likely to talk with people I don’t know.
And I don’t think anyone approached me cold to start up a conversation either. Two or three people offered me friendship, I appreciated it very much, but we didn’t get a chance to talk.
The conference gambit of seeing the other person’s institution on their name badge and using that as a conversation opener doesn’t work when all you see is an avatar name.
I really would have liked to have a participant list so I could have figured out who I might want to approach and what to talk about–given that it was obviously not easy for me to just start talking.
I wondered how many people already knew each other from SL and NMC interactions, and there was no way to know. There is always an “in group” at any conference. I had the sense that it was there, but invisible to me.
Potential for future visits:
I wonder if bringing faculty who are not that tech savvy in the new media sense into SL could give them some insight into what it’s like to be a total newbie and not that competent as a learner.
One thing I’m reading in journal articles from the faculty development and educational reform community is that putting faculty into an environment where they are not the expert can help them to “get” why students find some concepts difficult to understand that they (the professors) think of as trivial in their disciplinary area.
Breaking through the very prevalent “students don’t want to work hard, students are dumber than they used to be, students refuse to read, students aren’t well prepared by K-12 teachers anymore, etc. etc.” narrative is a big deal.
I’m thinking about ways to incorporate trips to SL into several workshops I’m going to be doing in 2008 for faculty on using NSF-NSDL-Chem digital library resources and NSF proposal writing. and for Wash U freshmen chem students to review for the second semester. Some of these will be online, and some FtoF. I need to explore how to do this via NMC.
Overall, a really educational and useful couple of days.
This is brilliant!
McLuhan was right, “The medium is truly the message…and the massage.” This conference is a wonderful chance to explore some of the possibilities of SL for academic gatherings. I found myself in many of the same ways I do when I travel to conferences. More significantly, I acted the way I often do when conferences are hosted at my home institution. Thanks for a great experience.
Thanks so much. That was fascinating and fun!